Until recently, I hadn’t seen Peter Weir’s The Last Wave (1977) for close to 30 years, and was surprised to find that time has been unusually kind to it. In some ways, this story of the impending destruction of humankind by meteorological forces has simply gained relevance in our age of global warming, but it’s more than that. I was never completely sold on the film’s greatness or on its much-praised “striking visuals,” and I’m not sure that’s changed (I’d call its visuals more effective and intelligent than striking). But its creepiness is undeniable, and it seems far less dated than many late 1970s films.
The story of an Australian barrister (Richard Chamberlain) called on to defend a group of Aborigines on a charge of murder—only to find himself enacting a predestined role in an ancient prophecy—is not as impenetrable as has sometimes been suggested. However, it’s all so firmly grounded in the realm of “mood piece” that many will find it slow going—and the enigmatic ending will undoubtedly fail to satisfy some. (Weir’s own statement of what the final shots mean still gets a big “If you say so” from me.) Still, it’s a film worth examining—and one of maybe four movies to do right by the underrated Richard Chamberlain.